Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Canto II : the Path of Yoga

The third shloka of Canto II, is its key : 'Don't be a coward, Arjuna'. It is not ordinary debility; not disability; not inability that Arjuna suffers from. It is hriday-durbala (heart-non-strength). This in psychological terms, is indecisiveness resulting from confusion and an erroneous sense of insecurity. In spiritual terminology, it is a moral paralysis of the will caused by fear of death or indeed, by dread of the pointlessness of life itself.

But how to overcome this fearful fear of fear ? Krishna provides many clues, but it is Arjuna who wraps them all up by using, in shloka 54, what is one of the most popular and discussed compounds of the Gita : sthita-prajya ( the steady minded person). Nothing is possible if the mind is not steady, poised, balanced, tranquil, for only then can it do properly what it is programmed to do : think clearly. The steady-minded person cultivates restraint, selflessness and detachment. By allowing life to happen calmly to him instead of he happening to life passionately, he discovers and cherishes the truth that something h igher than matter pervades matter and transcends matter. This something is atman, the quintessential principle of life itself. If all matter disappeared, the atman is would remain, because "the untrue never is; the True never is not". Matter is the perishable dress worn by the imperishable Spirit. Thus sthita-prajna realisation must become the basis for Arjuna's commitment on the battlefield -- and, indeed, for everyone's commitment in the complex business of daily living.

Sanjay reported :

Krishna's words to Arjuna, whose mind was heavy with grief and whose eyes were filled with tears of pity, were :

Your sorrow in this crisis, Arjuna, is disgraceful. It stands in the way of heavenly fulfilment.

Don't be a coward, Arjuna. It does not become you at all. Shake off your weakness and rise !

Arjuna replied :

How can I fight Bhisma and Drona, my gurus, who deserve my veneration ?

Why, it would be preferable to live as a begger than kill these great gurus. To murder teachers is to eat blood-stained food.

Who can say which is better, Krishna, we defeating them or they defeating us ? Dhritarashtra's sons are our enemies. Killing them will bring us life-long misery.

Paralysed by pity, full of doubts, I ask for your grace. I am your worshipper. Put me on the right path. Show me what is good for me.

I know of nothing that can remove this sense-killing sorrow --- neither tyranny over the gods nor kingship of the earth.

Sanjaya continued :

These were Arjuna's words to Krishna. He adde, ' I will not fight' and lapsed into silence.

To Arjuna, sad in the middle of the battlefield, Krishna, as if smiling, said :

You mourn those, Arjuna, who do not deserve mourning. The learned mourn neither the living nor the dead. (Your words only sound wise)

Do not think I never was, that you are not, that all kings are not. And it was not that we shall cease to be in the future.

To the embodied atman childhood, maturity and old age happen naturally. The acquisition of a new body is natural too. This does not confuse the steady soul.

Heat, cold, pain, pleasure -- these spring from sensual contact, Arjuna. They begin, and they end. They exist for the time being. Endure them.

The man whom these cannot distract, the man who is steady in pain and pleasure, is the man who achieves serenity.

The untrue never is; the True never is not. The knowers of truth know this.

And the Self that pervades all things is imperishable. Nothing corrupts this imperishable Self.

How utterly strange that bodies are said to be destroyed when the immutable, illimitable and indestructible Self lives on ! Therefore, rise, Arjuna, and fight !

Who sees the Self as slayer, and who sees it as slain, know nothing about the Self. This does not slay. It is not slain.

It is not born, it does not die. It does not evolve. It is birthless, changeless, and eternal. It does not die when the body dies.

And if a man knows it as imperishable, changeless and birthless, how can he possibly killl, or make another kill ?

As a person throws away worn-out clothes and puts on a new dress, the embodied Self throws out the worn-out body and enters into a new one.

Weapons do not harm this Self, fire does not burn it, water does not wet it, wind does not dry it.

It cannot be cut, kindled, wetted, dried; immobile, immovable, immutable, all pervasive, it is eternal.

It is unmanifest, unknowable and unchangeable. Realise this, and do not grieve.

Ever if it were endlessly to be born, and endlessly to die, you should not grieve.

For death is sure of that which is born, and of that which is dead, birth is certain. Why do you grieve over the inevitable ?

All things are unmanifest in the beginning, manifest in the middle and unmanifest at the end. Is this a cause for grief ?

It is wonderful to see it, wonderful to hear about it, wonderful to talk about it. But it is impossible to know it.

This embodied atman, Arjuna, is imperishable. You have no reason to grieve fo rany creature.

Think of your own dharma, and do not hesitate, for there is nothing greater to a warrior than a just war.

Lucky are the soldiers who fight in such a war; for them it is an easy entry into heaven.

But if you persist in ignoring dharma, your dignity and sva-dharma are lost; and you expose yourself to shame.

Your shame will never end. Shame is worse than death to a man of honour.

The chariot-warriors will say, 'He fled.' And those who once praised you will brand you a coward.

Your enemies will hurl insults at you. What could be more painful ?

Die, and enjoy heaven. Live, and enjoy the world. Arise, Arjuna, and fight !

Equate pain and pleasure, profit and loss, victory and defeat. And fight ! There is no blame this way.

I have given you the theory.Now listen to the practice. Learn how to break the fetter of karma.

There is no waste of half-done work in this and no going back. A little of this dharma removes a world of fear.

In this there is only single-minded will; while the efforts of confused people are many-branching and full of contradiction.

There is no constancy in the man who runs after pleasure and power, whose reason is robbed by the fool's flattery,

Who abiding by the rules of the Vedas proclaims that there is nothing else.

The honeyed rituals of the Vedas, promising enjoyment and power, are certain to lead him into fresh births.

The Vedas deal with the three qualities. Know them, detach yourself from them, keep your poise, detach yourself from selfishness and be firm in your Self.

The Vedas are as useless to a self-aware Brahmin as a pond when water has flooded the land.

Your duty is to work, not to reap the fruits of the work. Do not seek rewards, but do not love laziness either.

Be steady in Yoga, do whatever you must do; give up attachment, be indifferent to failure and success. This stability is Yoga.

Selfish work is inferior to the work of the balanced, uncoveting mind; shelter yourself in this mental stability, Arjuna. Harassed are the seekers of the fruits of action.

With this mental poise you will release yourself from good deeds and ill deeds. Devote yourself to this Yoga: it is the secret of success in work.

The steadfast in wisdom, the steadfast of mind, giving up the fruits of action, achieve the perfect state.

When your mind is no more obscured by desire, repose will come to you concerning what is heard and what is yet to be heard.

When your mind, so long whirled in conflicting thought, achieves poise, and steadies itself in itself, you will have realised Yoga.

Arjuna asked :

Who is the man of poise, Krishna ? Who is steady in devotion ? How does he speak, rest, walk ?

Krishna answered :

He has shed desire; he is content in the atman by the atman.

He is steady. He endures sorrow. He does not chase pleasure. Attachment, anger and fear do not touch him.

He is not selfish. He does not rejoice in prosperity. He is not saddened by want.

He can recall his senses from their objects as the tortoise pulls in its head. He is serene.

Objects scatter away from the good but lazy man, but desire remains. In the perfect state, however, desire also goes.

Yes, it is true that the violent senses rock the reason of the wisest man.

But the steadfast man thinks of me, and commands his desires. His mind is stable, because his desires are subdued.

Meditation on objects breeds attachment; from attachment springs covetousness; and covetousness breeds anger.

Anger leads to confusion, and confusion kills discrimination; discrimination gone, choice is rendered impossible; and when moral choice fails, man is doomed.

But a person who is established in firmness, free from pleasure and repugnance, traversing experience with his senses restrained -- such a person finds tranquility.

When tranquility comes, sorrow goes; a person whose wisdom is tranquil is truly stable.

The wavering person does not grow. Without growth, there is no peace; without peace, there is no bliss.

The mind is swayed by the senses; they destroy discrimination, as a storm sinks boats on a lake.

Only that man can be described as steady whose feelings are detached from their objects.

What is night to others is daylight to the restrained man; and when dawn comes to others, night comes to the perceiving sage.

The ocean, deep and silent, absorbs a thousand waters. The saint absorbs a thousand desires, and finds peace -- which the satisfier of the senses cannot.

Undistracted, passionless, egoless, he finds peace.

Peace is to be in Brahman, Arjuna, to suffer no more delusion. In peace is eternal unity with Brahman, the peace of Nirvana.

1 comment:

Debopriyo said...

Thank you. An insight on the rise of Arjuna.